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Nielsen Defends Reporting

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Young men are watching "substantially less" primetime TV this season than they did last season, according to a new report from Nielsen Media Research.

Nielsen on Monday issued a 43-page study of its audience measurement techniques that was designed to address criticisms from the major broadcast networks that flawed Nielsen data gathering processes account for the sharp decline in primetime viewing in the men 18-34 demo group. (Nielsen Media Research is owned by VNU, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.)

Nielsen's numbers show that viewership throughout the day among men 18-34 is down 14.7% for the 2003-04 season to date compared with the comparable period last season, while primetime viewership among that demo has dropped 7.7%.

That 7.7% drop translates to young men watching on average 4.5 minutes less primetime programming per day than they did last season. The largest declines have come from broadcast TV (down 12%) and pay cable outlets (down 24%), including HBO and Showtime.

Nielsen's study noted that young men are tuning in to television as often as they did last year, but they're spending less time overall on any given channel. The study cites a sharp rise in DVD and video game usage among men 18-24 as a possible factor in the overall viewership decline for men 18-34.

Executives at the Big Four networks declined comment on the details of the Nielsen report, which was released late Monday afternoon in New York, saying they needed more time to study its contents.

NBC and other networks have cited changes in Nielsen's samples as a possible culprit for the drop in young male viewing, but the study maintains that response and participation rates among Nielsen families have only improved this year.

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